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Round and round we go

Quique Setién has brought excitement back to Real Betis. :: EFE
Quique Setién has brought excitement back to Real Betis. :: EFE
  • a look at la liga

  • Everything in football is cyclical so it was about time that Real Betis and Valencia got their old identities back

It's amazing how fans see a reflection of themselves in their football club.

Take Real Betis. It's very rare to see supporters rejoice after conceding six goals and losing a match, but you could sense the supporters of Real Betis getting their identity club back.

Every club has its own identity. Real Madrid are like a supermodel, beautiful but so high maintenance that they are never far away from their next highly-strung breakdown and expensive divorce.

Barcelona is like a crazed political party, the people vote in leaders who reflect their interests, they find national and international success and then internal rumblings ruin it all.

It's amazing also how the success and failure of clubs goes in cycles. Real Betis are the Newcastle United of La Liga. The fans remained loyal through some testing times and they represent the working class people of a major city who live their lives through their football club.

Newcastle used to have Sir John Hall, the local entrepreneur who poured his fortune into his club. This was about the time that local raconteur Manuel Ruiz de Lopera was ruling the Béticos.

It's folklore that he progressed from the street stalls selling scarves to the boardroom spending millions on footballers. He once broke the world record to sign the Brazilian Denilson.

It was never dull in the Lopera era. They won the cup, competed in the Champions League and he even named the stadium after himself.

Since his departure it's never quite been the same on that side of the city of Seville. The team have yo-yoed up and down, with an annual fight against relegation; sometimes won, especially if Pepe Mel was manager, but the club lost its character. The crazy characteristics had disappeared.

Last Sunday night confirmed that they have got their colour back. They were four nil down with eleven minutes remaining but the home supporters were still singing their hearts out. The handful who had headed early to the car parks came sprinting back into the arena as Betis became Betis again. The players, clearly buying into the club philosophy scraped it back to 3-4 with two minutes to go. It ended up as a 3-6 loss but it was a momentous event.

Only the two Madrid giants have better average attendances this season (OK, Barcelona did play one game behind closed doors); the Betis supporters have bought into nights of entertainment that are the nearest thing to South American football fiestas in mainland Europe.

New coach Quique Setién has encouraged the brand of exhilarating football that made Las Palmas so popular during his tenure in the Canary Islands.

Back from the brink

Not only are Betis back, their opponents Valencia are showing their old characteristics. Héctor Cúper and Rafa Benítez led the club to Champions League finals playing conservative football with a cutting edge. Marcelino has reintroduced old values to lead the club from a big black hole to second place in the formative Liga table.

Players and managers come and go but club traits continue through the ages. Despite winning back to back Champions League finals and the domestic title, I've read disgruntled Real Madrid 'socios' questioning whether Zinedine Zidane is the man for them.

As I say... all supermodel.